Baa Baa Black Sheep Overview (1976-1977)


Introduction


Baa Baa Black Sheep (later syndicated as Black Sheep Squadron) is an American period military drama television series that aired on NBC.

Its premise was based on the experiences of United States Marine Corps aviator Greg Boyington and his World War II “Black Sheep Squadron”.

The series was created and produced by Stephen J. Cannell.

The opening credits read: “In World War II, Marine Corps Major Greg ‘Pappy’ Boyington commanded a squadron of fighter pilots. They were a collection of misfits and screwballs who became the terrors of the South Pacific. They were known as the Black Sheep.”

Outline

Major Greg “Pappy” Boyington is the commanding officer of VMF-214, a Marine squadron of “misfit” fighter pilots based on the Solomon Islands campaign and Bougainville campaign from 1943 to 1945 during World War II. Pappy often intercedes in altercations of the pilots at the base, but everyone seems to pull together when they are assigned missions in the air. Pappy likes to drink and fight a lot when not flying missions. He owns a Bull Terrier named “Meatball” – which he claims belongs to General Moore to get the dog on the base against regulations in Flying Misfits, but General Moore says he “wouldn’t own an ugly mutt like that.”

The series premise was very loosely based on a portion of the real-life military career of Gregory Boyington, known as “Pappy” due to his “advanced” age compared to the younger pilots under his command. (He was 30 when he took command of VMF-214, but in the series pilot, he is stated to be 35.) Boyington, who was a technical adviser for the series, commented that the show was “fiction based on reality” and that no regular character in the series except for himself actually existed. Although in his book of the same name, there is a General “Nuts” Moore who has similar characteristics to General Moore in the series. Also in the book is Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Smoak, on whom Colonel Lard is based. Lard has almost the same animosity for Major Boyington in the TV series as Smoak does in the book. In the documentary film Pappy Boyington Field, Robert Conrad shares personal insight about Pappy from their time together during the television series. The squadron has many successful combat missions using their Vought F4U Corsair planes against the experienced Japanese pilots using their Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter planes. The combat missions took place around the Japanese military base in Rabaul during his September 1943 to January 1944 tour of duty.

Pappy was an ace pre-World War II combat pilot and has the most air victories, or “kills”, of any pilot in the squadron. In the pilot episode, Boyington has six kills from his combat tour in China before World War II with the Flying Tigers. His count climbs into the mid-20’s as the series progresses. The real-life Boyington had 14 kills in 32 days during his first tour of duty with VMF-214, and finished with 28 confirmed victories.

The TV show’s squadron is based on the fictional island of Vella la Cava. There is an actual island called Vella Lavella in the New Georgia Group of the Solomon Islands, but in the initial episode “Flying Misfits,” Vella la Cava was represented on an aviation sectional chart by the real Kolombangara Island. Under Boyington’s command VMF-214 flew out of Barakoma Airfield on Vella Lavella during the Solomon Islands campaign.

Popular character John “Hutch” Hutchinson (Joey Aresco) was killed off in the episode Last One for Hutch and replaced as chief mechanic by Master Sergeant Andy Micklin (Red West), who had joined the squadron a few episodes earlier in Devil in the Slot.

Baa Baa Black Sheep Series

Production & Filming Details

  • Creator(s): Stephen J. Cannell.
  • Narrator(s): Robert Conrad.
  • Director(s): Alex Beaton, Robert Conrad, Larry Doheny, and Walter Doniger.
  • Producer(s): Stephen J. Cannell and Phillip DeGuere.
  • Music: Mike Post and Pete Carpenter.
  • Cinematography: Edward R. Plante, H. John Penner, John Elsenbach, and Chuck Arnold.
  • Editor(s): Jerry Dronsky and Harvey Stambler.
  • Production: Stephen J. Cannell Productions and Universal Television.
  • Distributor(s): NBC Universal Television Distribution.
  • Original Network: NBC.
  • Release Date: 21 September 1976 to 06 April 1978.
  • Running Time: 60 minutes.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.